Monday, September 21, 2009

Top 12 for settling in continued...

13. It's funny walking down the streets and hearing men call out "Hello!" How are you,fine?" Africa Mama! Jamaica! Where are you from?" Obama...Michael Jackson!" Hola! Great you want some fish and chips?!" Do you need a tour guide?"
which I am learning to ignore, but some days it catches me off guard and I want to burst out laughing in their faces. So random!

14. I have an official farmers tan on my toes! Didn't know that could happen.

15. Fivelle the mouse wouldn't survive here because there are so many cats everywhere you go! If you know the song sing along," There are soooooooooooo many cats in N.Africa and the streets aren't filled with cheese!!!"

16. Entertainment includes walking down a lighted walk way to stare at a fountain that has a choreographed light and music show!

17. I saw a run away donkey down one of the corridors of the Medina. It was quite entertaining watching the owner run after the donkey screaming in Arabic!

18. Now I know what shwarma is and I like it! Thanks J and AM!

19. Surprisingly I am loving the Dannon yogurt and Gouda cheese! It goes great with just about everything.

20. Singing with other people brings such calm to my soul, especially from the rooftop in the Medina!

21.We met a little girl who followed us asking for money. When we kept walking because we had nothing to give she became aggressive and began pushing and shoving us and grabbed my friend's wrist. I asked her if she was hungry in French and she looked me in my eye and said "La!" which means no in Arabic. I told her "safi!" which means "enough!" as I walked away. The next day I was to meet a friend and got lost, by the time I turned around and found the meeting place I saw that my friend was not there. But I saw the little girl from the day before running down the street after me. I didn't know what to say, but as she got closer she yelled "sac! sac!! agee! agee!" I began to say I don't understand in French but she proceeded to yell and began to show exasperation with me. She flailed her arms and pointed in the other direction and there I saw my friend in the distance. So I quickly walked with the little girl and when I met my friend she told me that she sent the little girl to the meeting place to get me because she had been robbed and was going to go to the police station. I was very startled and a little confused but grateful to the little girl who helped us in our time of need. I have seen her here and there in town and now when she sees us she will come up and hold our hands gently and ask for a dirham.

22. We were walking down the street the other day to get photos for our school documentation and saw a man with a little monkey on a chain! The monkey looked old and dishevelled with orangish reddish grayish hair and a little pair of turquoise shorts with yellow lining. Let's just say we walked away quickly to avoid any uncomfortable encounter with the old little monkey.

23. What's up with me going into places and totally blanking out on what to say....It's hilarious! I spend the whole walk to the shop rehearsing my lines or what I will say and then the shopkeepers will say something really quickly that I wasn't expecting and my eyes get really wide, time stops, and my mouth just hangs open......until some sweet person next to me either yells or laughs snapping me out of my language coma and they even ask me what I want to tell the shopkeeper in English or in French! Thanks to all of the kind locals!

24. Every now and then we see men and boys dressed in brightly colored clothing with drums and instruments who play in the streets at night. But one day there was one man who waited for us to come out of a shop walked up to my friend and began playings a rhythmical piece right in her face. He finished his rock show and then held out his hand in her face! She just stood there and then stared at me. He then began to play again and extended his hand again! LOL We walked away and began to wonder what it would be like if when approached again by a street musician if we let them finish their show and then busted a move like the 'running man' or 'The Charleston' with jazz hands if he would pay us for entertaining him. We haven't seen him since but we will be ready for him for sure! LOL

25. I have finally learned, at the end of Ramadan, that going to the grocery store 30 minutes before F'tour is not the best idea (mind you, this is after the fourth trip after school and the place is crowded with many angry people with low blood sugar!)

26. Taxi drivers here are something special! One taxi driver wanted to take us to the Ruins, but didn't know the way so he persisted to get on my cell phone to find the location while other locals surround the taxi loaded down with packages. He was so determined to get our taxi fair that he hung up the cell phone and then told us that he would drive and we were to tell him when to stop and drop us off. So we are on the route to the correct location and he keeps trying to pull over way too early so my dear friend in the back seat keeps saying "zeed! zeed!" which means go higher/continue in Arabic but he just trying to keep pulling over as we motioned for him to go forward. Then all of a sudden I remembered the word for 'go straight ahead' and yelled out "Neeshan!" He was so excited he repeated me and gave me a high five! LOL I immediately panicked because I wasn't sure if a high five was culturally appropriate! We saw the place and told him to stop the taxi. After we got out he says in French 'You girls really need to carry a map with you with pictures and an Arabic phrasebook!" We told him thanks for the advice but we had left our maps and phrasebooks at home. He smiled and drove away!

Another taxi driver saw my friend and I with multiple bags of groceries close to F'tour time and decided he would wait across the street for us. We made it to the median amongst the speeding cars and mopeds. All of a sudden a white car full of people slams on his breaks in order to allow us to cross the street. Meanwhile the cars behind him weren't aware of his gesture of kindness and ran right into the back of another car! We were like deer in the head lights until the drivers began to yell and honk at us to get across the street. The taxi driver who had been watching the whole ordeal laughed and said "Welcome to N. Africa!" Then he proceeded to talk to us the entire time about how Harira is the best soup in the world and how this city is the best place to be in the entire world.

Other taxi drivers like to entertain us by turning on music very loudly as we ride along. One driver in particular turned on music that was quite delightful until he began singing in a strange falsetto tone the entire ride home. We did everything in our power to keep from laughing out loud. As soon as we got out of the taxi and around the corner we laughed and try to reenact the scene on a daily basis!

27. My classroom for first grade is a small little room in the basement of the school building with marble tiled walls and concrete floor which is great for the summer because it's nice and cool, but the dilemma lies in how to get posters and teaching tools to stick to the walls. A fellow coworker was kind enough to buy me a set of plastic shower hooks that have worked wonderfully well! ( I will post pics of the classroom soon!)

28. I now know that homemade pita sandwiches are great! You can put just about anything in pita and it tastes great! Not as great as Muhkooduh (which is a delicious potato pita sandwich that you can get in the Medina) but pretty close! Why didn't I think of this before?!

29. I am LOVING the new golden lion statue in the middle of the lighted walkway. We noticed the lion yesterday and as we got closer we noticed that the paint was still wet and that the odorous fumes meant that the statue was brand new to town! It represents the official soccer team or something like least that's what the night watchman said. Many people gathered to take their photo by the statue so we thought we would join in! Now that I think about it the lion looks a lot like Aslan! (will post a pic soon!)

30. I am really enjoying getting to know my coworkers. We are so different, but when we are together great things happen!

.......More to come!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Cooking our own F'tour
I have found that cooking is a great way to relieve stress and save money while living in the city! Upon arrival we found many cheap meals close to our apartment, but with Ramadan many of the restaurants are closed until about 8:30pm except for McDonald's which is expensive and not very appetizing. We go to the market about every two days or so and buy fresh fruits and vegetables. We use our Arabic the best we can and sometimes we mispronounce words, but many of the shop owners are very patient and forgiving.

Last week we wanted peaches and the shopowner pointed to nectarines. All we knew to say was 'la' which means no and we pointed at the peaches. He then proceeded to say the name of the peach and hold out his hand saying "khoh" and he said it until we repeated. Then he pointed to the nectarines and said "shehdiyah" and repeated the word until we did. It was just like being at school. He smiled and told us to write a list for the next time we came so he could serve us more quickly the next time we needed fruits and vegetables.

After shopping we wash all of our vegetables and fruits and then we prepare delicious cuisine. The following meals have been made in our kitchen: pasta with meat sauce, stirfry, chicken salad, guacamole, (a novice) couscous, pita pockets, omelets, pizza, Harira (soup) etc. The only meal that we haven't made successfully is hummus which turned out to be chunky! LOL We didn't realize that the blender wasn't strong enough to mash up our garbonzo beans. Someday I will post recipies, but really all of the meals we have made have really been made up on the spot in the kitchen. We cook our meats with green and red peppers, onion, garlic, etc and then we add a sauce or noodles and rice. I will admit that I really miss seasonings like Lawry's Seasoning Salt or good old Mrs. Dash! We bought a wonderful greenish mixture of spices called 'hannout spice' or lazy cook spice. The lazy cook's spice is a mixture of forty some spices and tastes pretty good on just about anything!
Experiencing Ramadan...cannons and all...

Now that we are approaching the end of Ramadan I thought I should share what we have heard each day for the past few weeks right before eating dinner in our apartment. Listen closely to the videos posted here to see if you hear "allah akhbar" meaning "God is Great!" When the streets clatter with the sounds of cars speeding home to break fast and all of a sudden everyone vanishes into their homes and the only sounds you hear are from the neighborhood cats we know that F'tour is coming. A cannon fires from the Medina and then we hear the call to prayer. We gather to pray and eat as well at this time knowing that many who live in the city are feasting together with their friends and families in celebration and devotion to their faith. After an hour or two the streets begin to come alive again with many people old and young who appear content. Loud music plays in the streets and the crowds gather around contemporary looking fountains and lighted walkways until after midnight. Soon after people return home to sleep for a few hours to arise at 4:00am to eat breakfast before sunset. I am deeply impressed by the commitment of my new friends and coworkers that are fasting as each day of Ramadan passes. Eid- al F'tour is coming on Sunday where people will celebrate the month of fasting and the forgiveness of transgressions for the past 11months before Ramadan.